Crunch Time for NASA? (With updates)

My twitter timeline is on fire with news that the House Appropriations Committee in the US just released its fiscal year 2012 Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations bill, which will be voted on by the subcommittee tomorrow (July 7). This bill funds the Department of Commerce, the Department of Justice, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and other related agencies. It also proposes to pull  the plug on JWST.

To the best of my knowledge, despite lots of rumours flying around, there never was any serious discussion over cancelling JWST. It was a scenario that had to be considered given the criticism over bad management and cost overruns – but as far as I was aware, this was an academic exercise. The Decadal Survey and every other similar roadmap placed the highest priority on JWST, and everyone, scientists as well as politicians, work under the assumption that JWST will fly.

So…. I don’t really have anything to say on this. I’m writing this to ask for information. Who knows more? Is this some political hard-balling hoop-jumpery?


An email from our European PI for MIRI gave little extra factual information over what’s being talked and written online, but urged us to support our US colleagues who will have to mobilize and fight to keep JWST alive. Also something about the “international collaboration” card ESA will “almost certainly” play if and when it’s called for. Meanwhile within the project it’s business as usual. Remember we’re in the middle of our final all-important flight test campaign at the Rutherford Labs In Didcot before we deliver MIRI to NASA later this year – lovely data are pouring in, lots to do.

Links (no longer a complete list but I’ll try to post anything official or particularly interesting or relevant):

Reaction from AURA

Official reaction from the American Astronomical Society (AAS) – very strong words of support for the mission

NY Times piece by Dennis Overbye with reactions from Matt Mountain, Tod Lauer

Nice by Jonathan Amos on the Beeb, words from NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver

Blog post by Andy Lawrence

Brief blog post on Cosmic Variance

Skymania story

Space News story Nature news story

Science news story

Stein Sigurdsson


Well informed piece on Space Policy Online

Risa Wechsler on Cosmic Variance

Here’s a Save the James Webb Space Telescope facebook page you can like, and a twitter feed to follow.



  1. Eli Bressert says:

    The Decadal Survey has been great, but they did make a few mistakes. Most notably on the fact they assumed a rising budget for this year, which did not happen. I’m very much hoping that JWST is not cancelled … but we well see soon enough.


  2. Wow…. This comes across as a tactic to lessen the sting of a reduction, by firstly proposing HUGE cuts and then backpedalling to a the actual cuts that they originally wanted to aim for. My feeling is that JWST was left out there on its own as a “dare you remove this?!?” item in a fairly scary game of Chicken, but I suspect JWST will survive as there are enough little fingers in JWST pies spread all over the States.

  3. Todd Laurence says:

    Current emailer:

    Dr. Robert G. Jahn, is a former Dean at the School of Applied Science,
    Princeton University. His group verified details of a theory in quantum
    physics regarding ‘acausal connections’ in the space-time continuum,
    (W.Pauli, 1952).

    One of the conclusions is that the star Kochab, an orange giant in Ursa
    some 120 plus light-years distant, went supernova in the past.

    The projected timeline for the appearance of the light-energy is
    within months….


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